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World’s most valuable team is now Real Madrid, not Manchester United

Apr 17, 2013, 3:02 PM EDT

FC Bayern Muenchen - Training & Press Conference Getty Images

For the first time since Forbes began producing their list of soccer’s most valuable clubs, Manchester United is not at the top,a  small irony the day after Premier League chief Richard Scudamore touted having the world’s biggest club. If the measure is value, then that’s not longer the case, because with an estimated current value of $3.3 billion, Real Madrid has ascended to the list’s top spot. Manchester United ranks second, while Barcelona sit third, the world’s three kings sitting atop a $1.3 billion gap to team number four.

How does a team become a $3.3 billion franchise? Here are some of the points Forbes picked out about El Real:

  • Revenue of $650 million during 2011-12, most in the soccer world.
  • Operating income of $134 million, second in the sports world to only the Dallas Cowboys.
  • New kit deal with adidas worth $40 million/year.
  • $39 million/year kit sponsorship with Emirates Airlines.
  • A revenue increase of 62% over the last three years
  • An average operating margin of 28% over the same time.
  • Oh, and having massive on-field success thanks to various transcendent stars.

Forbes has been compiling these rankings since 2004, so it’s not exactly like Real Madrid is ending an epic run of dominance. And it’s not like the Red Devils have fallen on their collective faces, either. As the magazine puts it, “It is not that the Red Devils have faltered. It is just that Los Merengues are simply bigger, more profitable and growing faster than Manchester United.”

The full list, below, includes six English Premier League clubs in the top 11, the product of lucrative television deals, not the least of which is NBC’s new pact with the circuit, set to kick-in this fall. Elsewhere on the list, Europe’s other big leagues are still well represented. Though Spain only have the big two, Germany and Italy place four clubs on the list. France has two, and encouragingly, Brazil’s league has one: Sao Paulo titans Corinthians.

Also is the range, in dollars, from top to bottom. The gap from first to 20th is “only” about $3 billion. Between Real Madrid and Newcastle, you can slot in a Barcelona.

Be sure to check out the whole piece, which goes into how the rankings were compiled. It also includes an interesting video with Mike Ozanian, the man in the byline.

Forbes’ Most Valuable Soccer Clubs – Top 20

1. Real Madrid ($3.3 billion)
2. Manchester United ($3.165 billion)
3. Barcelona ($2.6 billion)
4. Arsenal ($1.326 billion)
5. Bayern Munich ($1.309 billion)
6. AC Milan ($945 million)
7. Chelsea ($901 million)
8. Juventus ($694 million)
9. Manchester City ($689 million)
10. Liverpool ($651 million)
11. Tottenham Hotspur ($520 million)
12. Schalke 04 ($498 million)
13. Borussia Dortmund ($456 million)
14. Inter Milan ($401 million)
15. Olympique Lyonnais ($368 million)
16. Corinthians Paulista ($358 million)
17. Napoli ($330 million)
18. Hamburg SV ($300 million)
19. Olympique Marseille ($285 million)
20. Newcastle ($263 million)

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